Flying From the U.S. to the U.K. During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Well, we made it back to London. (If you didn’t read my account of flying from the U.K. to the U.S. a few weeks ago, you can read it here.)


There were definitely more people around, in both the airports and on the plane, on our trip from Dulles to Heathrow than we saw going west in July. I think we saw a lot more people in the Washington Dulles airport this time because we weren’t in an international-flights-only area of the terminal; there were plenty of domestic flights departing from the gates around us.

Not exactly an empty airport terminal

A few restaurants were selling food, but many more places were closed than were open. (Auntie Anne’s was open, Starbucks was not. I have no idea who makes the decision about which of the airport services should be open, but I’d say that was a poor choice.)

TSA was actually giving away individually-packaged reusable cloth face masks at the entrance to security, which surprised me. At Heathrow you have to buy them from a vending machine.

Some people went above and beyond when it came to protecting themselves from catching COVID-19… a little OTT with the PPE (if you ask me!):


I did a double-take as an IKEA duvet cover-turned-airplane-seat-protector walked past me:

The reduced flight “service” on United was the same as our previous flight. The rules of mask-wearing for the entire flight except when eating and drinking are still in effect. While there were more people in our cabin this time, the flight was still empty enough that we could spread out comfortably from other passengers, and we were able to lie down across the rows of seats to get a couple of hours’ shut-eye on the overnight flight.

When you fly into the U.K. from the U.S. (among quite a few other countries) right now, you are required to complete a public health form online in the 48 hours leading up to your flight. We had to print them all out and bring them with us to present along with our passports and resident permits.

You are not required to be a U.K. citizen/resident to enter the U.K. from the U.S. right now, but you are required by law to self-isolate for 14 days. (When we entered the U.S., isolating was just a recommendation, not a legal mandate.) Will anyone turn up at our house to make sure we are in it? Probably not, but we are responsible citizens and are currently finishing up Day 4 of our lockdown.

I did receive a phone call from someone in a public health department of the U.K. government the day after we returned here, checking to make sure I was aware of the 14-day isolation requirement. I don’t know if there will be any other follow-up… or if that was it.

Unfortunately, we arrived back to the city during a heat wave, and it has been brutal to be stuck in our un-air-conditioned house with a concrete slab for a garden. The only relief has come in the forms of an inflatable paddling pool, which all four of us have spent time cooling off in each day; and a small portable air-conditioner a friend dropped off on our front doorstep, which has allowed me to sleep at night (and saved the rest of the family from living with a VERY cranky mom/wife). Ben, you get first dibs on one of my kidneys.

Best place to be during the day right now
Best spot in the house at night

Was it worth it, the hassle of traveling right now, and the 2-week quarantine at the end, to visit one half of our family for 3 weeks this summer? Yes, I’d say it absolutely was. Especially since we don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, and if it will be possible to travel at all in the winter months.

And I even managed to catch up with some dear friends in person, even if it had to be kept at an outdoors-only 6-foot distance.

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